This article is copied from a the HELM, Thursday, February 21, 1963. This is one of the newspapers which HSERL has archived and which will be available to everyone in the very near future.
THIS MONTH we celebrate the birthday of the country’s first president, George Washington. there is little new that can be said about the man. However, Mr. William E. Shelton of Washington D.C. sent us an item that throws a revealing light on the character of the President by listing the objects he held most dear. This is an excerpt from President Washington’s will.
On July 9, 1799, at the age of 67, George Washington, in apparent good health, sat down at Mt. Vernon to make and sign his last will. It was five months and five days before his death.
Making his will was a long tedious task as it contained many “items” and was written by his own hand. He began. “In the name of God, Amen, I George Washington, of Mount Vernon, a citizen of the United States and lately, President of same, do make , ordain, and declare this instrument which is written by my own hand and every page subscribed with my name to be my last will and testament, revoking all others.
“All my debts, of which there are but a few, and none of great magnitude, are to be punctually and speedily paid, and the legacies hereinafter bequeathed , are to be discharged as soon as circumstances will permit, and in the manner directed.
To my dearly beloved wife, Martha Washington, I give and bequeath the use, profit , and benefit of my whole real estate and personal property for the term of her natural life”
One of his most interesting bequests was to one of his favorite servants named William. He had no other name. He was now very old and ill. Washington directed that he be given his freedom with an income for life. But William begged Mrs. Washington to allow him to remain at Mt Vernon which she did but he passed away soon after hist master.
The gold beaded cane, left to Washijngton two years before by Benjamin Franklin was willed to Washington’s brother Charles with these additional words”And that is all because he, himself, is well provided for.” Washington left his four famous swords to his favorite nephews with a provision that “they are never to be unsheathed except in defense of their country or for show purposes”
To each of his four women acquaintances and several distant relatives Washington left a gold “mourning ring” set with an ebony stone “not for their intrinsic but rather for their sentimental values.” Each was valued at about $100.
To Bishop Thomas Wilson,an Episcopalian Minister of Virginia, who several months later was to have a part in Washington’s funeral, was left his large Bible.
Washington was not satsfied with the family burial plot at Mt. Vernon and orderd it to be rebuilt to his specifications “constructed of brick” on the site he chose overlooking the winding Potomac River. This part of his will was carried out but not completed until thirty years after his death.